Ray of hope: A university professor’s struggle to teach street children

ILM is a mobile charity school that focuses on life skills

Hafsah Sarfraz April 09, 2016
Sohail said she aims to let street children know there are people who care about their future. PHOTOS: EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD: Half of Pakistan’s problems are due to illiteracy and lack of education among people among all sections of society. It is the disparity of thinking and ideology that creates social issues and this disparity is contributed to by the varying levels of education among people. While there is an extreme section that is fortunate enough to gain global education at world-class institutions, there are children who never get to see a school throughout their lives.

Tauheed Sohail, a university professor, decided to stop talking about it and actually take action. Singlehandedly, Sohail came up with the idea of a mobile charity school in the form of ‘Ilm’. She wanted to make a contribution to the community, and reached the conclusion that knowledge helps people in making their lives better.

With the belief that basic education, especially the methodology with which it is taught, makes a significant impact on the way a child will think and approach life, she set out to teach younger children who didn’t have access to schools.

Unlike other street schools, Ilm is a mobile charity school that aims to spread knowledge while also focusing on life skills to children, which will help them build a better life.

Sohail told The Express Tribune that she came up with the idea of a mobile school because rental costs are huge and affording them as an individual can be difficult.

“A mobile charity school allows for using the same supplies at multiple locations. There are many street and charity schools, but we also have a lot of children who cannot afford to go to school, or whose parents are not interested in making an effort for their children to study. The idea is to cultivate in them a love for learning, along with life skills and critical thinking,” she said.

Ilm started off at a local ground, until a generous resident of Sector G-11 offered their driveway. The school now teaches students six days a week for two to three hours every day. Ilm plans to move all across Islamabad.

With 37 students on board, and 11 on the waitlist, Sohail hopes to be able to accommodate as many children as possible. Currently, the school teaches at three levels: pre-school, kindergarten and class 1. It is interesting to know that Sohail has been using the American education system curriculum for English, math and critical thinking, and the private school curriculum for Urdu.

“The core focus is on methodology, to make learning fun for the kids with a combination of different activities. For class 1, the main curriculum we use is the Federal Government one, however we supplement it with private school curriculum. Because of their living conditions and environment we have blended character building and life skills into their curriculum,” Sohail explained.

Projects with social impact may be challenging to begin with, but one positive aspect of Pakistanis is the society’s willingness to help. Soon after Sohail began the project, her university students offered to teach at the school. In this way, she was able to impact two different levels in the society; the elite and privileged, who have access to higher educational institutions, and among those who have never learnt the basic alphabets.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Sohail said she does not aim to create a fancy organisation out of the project. “The idea is simple; to bring a change from one’s home. I used my resources for this because I believe that the right of education is a basic right that everyone deserves. Every child should know their life has value, and there are people who care about them and want a better future for them,” she said.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th, 2016.

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